Widespread testing is seen as crucial to controlling the spread of the virus because it allows those who are infected to self-isolate while helping health officials identify hotspots and trace those who are infected.
Johnson said Wednesday the government would ration coronavirus testing, giving priority to health workers and care home staff after widespread reports that people around the country were unable to schedule tests.
“We have massively increased our capacity,'' he told lawmakers on a key oversight committee. “I know many people have had infuriating experiences and I do sympathize, but 89% get their results within 24 hours.''
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland told Sky News that the government was drawing up a new priority list for testing, suggesting that students and their families could be next in line after the National Health Service and social care.
Over the past two days, lawmakers from all parties have bombarded the government with a litany of complaints from constituents desperate to get tests so they can return to school or work and visit elderly loved ones.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock told the House of Commons on Tuesday that it may take weeks to sort out the problems. In the meantime, people have been turning up at emergency rooms due to the lack of availability of testing, with one hospital official in the northwestern city of Bolton saying that 100 people showed up seeking a test in recent days.
The Association of School and College Leaders warned that schools could struggle to remain open unless testing capacity increases as more cases emerge.
“Teachers need to be counted as key workers in order that you can at least keep that maths teacher in front of 30 young people if their test is negative,” Geoff Barton, the group’s general-secretary, told the BBC.
Follow AP pandemic coverage at http://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street in London, to attend the weekly Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament, in London, Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Credit: Matt Dunham
Credit: Matt Dunham